Anti-Corruption Bill OK’d

A bill that provides prison sentences ranging from two to 14 years for various public corruption offences has been approved this week by the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly.

The Anti-Corruption Law makes it a crime to bribe Legislative Assembly Members or other public officers; to perpetrate frauds on the government, for public officials to breach the public trust; to abuse or attempt to sell or buy public office; and for public officers to make false claims, among other offences.

LA members or civil servants who accept loans, rewards or other financial advantage for anything they do or fail to do in their official capacity could be sent to prison for 14 years, if convicted.

Anyone pretending to have influence and who accepts rewards in exchange for some kind of government cooperation or assistance could face 10 years in prison upon conviction.

Public officials are also legally obligated to report bribes made to them under the Anti-Corruption Law.

The law will replace criminal offences that are now listed under the Penal Code for official corruption and false certificates by public officers.

The Anti-Corruption Law will also create a five member commission to police corrupt practices by lawmakers, public servants and private individuals who do business with government entities.

The Anti-Corruption Commission will be led by the police commissioner, and include as members the complaints commissioner, the auditor general and two members appointed by the governor who must be either retired judges, retired lawyers or retired police officers.

Under the proposal the five commission members are required to consider any report of a corruption offence including: bribery of lawmakers, defrauding government entities, breach of trust by public officers, and attempts to buy or sell public offices.

The commission will be given investigative powers including the authority to request information and take some action, where authorised by the Grand Court, which could include freezing bank accounts for up to 21 days or requesting search warrants to be performed by constables.

With certain exceptions, anyone refusing to provide requested information to the commission can be fined and imprisoned for up to two years.

Those from whom information is requested can appeal for judicial review of the matter. Information protected by attorney-client privilege may also be exempted from disclosure to the commission.

If the commission finds evidence that a public official or private citizen has committed a corruption offence, it must present that evidence to the Cayman Islands Attorney General for further review.

Commissioners are also expected to provide the governor advice on matters that come before it that could affect public policy.

The bill places the Anti-Corruption Commission under severe restrictions as to how much information it can disclose. Other than reporting to the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, the commission is not required to provide any information except where it is authorised to do so by the Grand Court.

Attorney General Samuel Bulgin has previously said that enacting anti-corruption laws in Cayman was an effort that had taken a number of years. He said a draft bill was presented to the LA as far back as 2003.

Mr. Bulgin said the delay was in part due to the signing of the UN Convention Against Corruption by the United Kingdom in December 2003.

Cayman has since incorporated various elements of that convention into its own bill, resulting in a proposal that was much wider in scope, Mr. Bulgin said.